When was the last time you put on a pair of safety glasses? Just this week, I’ve treated three people with traumatic eye injuries. One young man was playing badminton and was hit by the shuttlecock (the “birdie”). Fortunately, he suffered only a corneal abrasion and had recovered two days later. Because of its small size, the shuttlecock can enter the bony orbit and directly impact the eye. Because of how fast it travels off the racquet, it can cause devastating tissue damage and even rupture the eye.
I helped a woman who had splashed liquid bleach in her eye while housecleaning. She had a first-class chemical burn to her cornea and conjunctiva, both of which can threaten vision. Hers will take longer to heal, but she was lucky, also—hers will heal without reconstructive surgery.
I treated a child who was brought in by his father after he’d fallen while carrying a pencil in his hand. You guessed it—pencil tip into the eye. He was especially lucky because the pencil tip broke off in the tough sclera before piercing the wall of his eye. He was a wonderfully trusting child, and I was able to remove the foreign body under eyedrop anesthesia right in the office. His vision will be fine.
What did these injuries have in common? All of them happened as a result of ocular exposure to everyday items. None of them wore eye protection. Two of them should have been--because their injuries could have been anticipated. (The child with the pencil gets a pass—he wasn’t running with it or using it unsafely. It was just an accident.)
So what’s the solution? We can all start by being careful and by anticipating which activities we do could possibly result in eye trauma. Sports that involve racquets and small, high velocity balls, activities involving sharp objects, chemicals and power tools, including lawn mowers and weed whackers—these are the main culprits. If you’re serious about preventing eye injuries, like I am, get in the habit of always using safety glasses with those activities. Insist your kids do the same. Ask about safety eyewear at an eyeglass shop or even at a home improvement store.
It’s easy to prevent a serious eye injury by thinking about it beforehand; from a surgeon’s perspective, it’s a lot harder to put an eye back together and restore lost vision.